Table Three: Where the Wildwood elite eat meat? 

The Main Street address of Wildwood's Table Three might conjure images of a quaint small town, a Norman Rockwell fantasy of families bustling among storefront displays of hand-dipped chocolates, leather-bound books and toy trains. This, however, is 2010, and Wildwood's "Main Street" is a mixed-use development meant to evoke a small-town feel but still new enough that you can practically smell the drywall. While there are some flashes back to the past — the town opened a new city hall here — it's a thoroughly contemporary enterprise: Next door to Table Three is a sleek-seeming chiropractic center called 212 Degrees Of Wellness, which I mistook for a Bikram-yoga studio until I realized that, while Bikram aficionados do like it hot, they probably prefer the temperature to be somewhere south of boiling.

Table Three itself is certainly no throwback; it's a restaurant in the modern American vein, pitched somewhere between casual and upscale. You can wear jeans, watch football at the bar and read the daily specials off a chalkboard, but that lamb "porterhouse" entrée you ordered, with mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day, will set you back $28.

The décor checks most boxes on the list of last decade's trends. Just inside the entrance, the wine selection is displayed in mahogany cabinets. The lounge has a curving bar, flat-screen TVs and striking wallpaper. The dining room where I was seated (another appeared to be reserved for private parties) features high ceilings, plush red banquettes, cast-iron fixtures, the aforementioned chalkboard and a view into the kitchen. The total effect is impersonal, the sort of dining space you might expect to find in the display unit of a trendy loft condo complex.

Owner Beth Williams has operated Creve Coeur-based Cuisine d'Art Café and Catering since 1993. At Table Three, her first dinner restaurant — and her third venture overall, counting the original and current incarnations of Cuisine d'Art; hence the name — she and head chef John Buchanan offer a safe selection of reliable favorites: steaks, chicken, seafood. Indeed, the appetizer menu reads as though lifted from a mid-priced suburban chain, with mac & cheese, fried green beans and goat-cheese dip. I'll go against my usual bias and recommend the "Crab Cake Three," a trio of miniature crab cakes, each with the circumference of a half-dollar coin and about an inch in height, topped with roasted garlic aioli and served over a citrus-spiked slaw. The sweetness of good crab meat is only lightly cut by filler, while a quick pan-searing gives the exterior crunch and an extra hit of flavor.

Roasted-tomato soup, also from the appetizer menu, is beautifully presented, a brick-red purée of roasted tomato and red pepper, topped with a dollop of crème fraîche and a thin crisp of Parmesan cheese. The soup has body but no depth, its flavor a simplistic note of tangy tomato.

Entrées include three different steaks: a tenderloin filet, a New York strip and a rib eye, each with a different preparation. I opted for the first, which is served with a balsamic demiglace, a prosciutto "cake" — something like a prosciutto hash brown and, frankly, a waste of good ham — and (deep breath) "roasted garlic Yukon mashers." The steak was cooked exactly to my requested medium-rare, which let the flavor of the beef carry this dish. The balsamic demi-glace adds a smoky, tannic background note.

The "roasted garlic Yukon mashers" were mashed potatoes. Get used to 'em.

The lamb "porterhouse" steaks are two six-ounce loin chops. Though this might seem like a lot of meat, once you subtract the weight of the bone and the thicker bands of fat, you have a modest-size (appropriately so, to my taste) entrée. The lamb is served in a rosemary-herb demi-glace, a sensible pairing that complements the meat's verdant, ever-so-gamy flavor. As with the steak, the kitchen displayed excellent technique, the chops' exteriors showing a perfect crosshatch char, while the interiors were a gorgeous purple-shading-to-red. The rest of the plate was uninspired: Those mashed potatoes again and al dente green beans heavily seasoned with garlic.

The "Sunday Chicken" is chicken-fried chicken: chicken breast beaten thin, battered and then fried, topped with thick gravy studded with black pepper. The breading is thin and crisp but possesses a jarring sweetness that reminded me of Frosted Flakes. On the beans (here amped up with bacon) and mashed taters.

"Sea Bass Provençal" is less than the sum of its parts: an eight-ounce sea bass fillet with kalamata olives, shallots and cherry tomatoes. Yet aside from the occasional briny kick from the olives, the mild fish relied mostly on a white wine broth for flavor, resulting in a pleasant but utterly forgettable dish. A pedestrian side dish of long grain and wild rice (along with the vegetable du jour: again, green beans) calls the $26 price tag into question.

The dessert selection is charmingly homey, with both brownies and chocolate-chip cookies available. There is also, of course, crème brûlée. I went for the bread pudding, which features a lovely piece of pumpkin-custard bread drizzled with a just-sweet-enough Maker's Mark glaze.

There are two wine lists, the regular and the reserve. The former is notable for a wide selection of wines by the glass; the prices are slightly higher than the usual by-the-glass selection, but you receive an eight-ounce pour in a small carafe. The reserve list features mostly California wines at $100 a bottle and up.

Service on my visits was problematic, varying between pushy and absentee. When I ordered a glass of wine, the server responded, "Would you like a bottle?" No, a glass. On another visit, when I committed the sin of ordering club soda instead of booze, a flicker of disappointment crossed my server's face before she recovered. The level of professionalism was lacking — "Would you like an app?" — in a restaurant where two people can easily spend $100.

A larger disconnect between ambition and execution hangs over Table Three. The restaurant clearly wants to be a destination and is designed and priced accordingly. As someone who, believe it or not, tires of always recommending restaurants in the same areas of the city and the inner suburbs, I applaud this. Yet right now the lack of imagination in the kitchen undercuts those aspirations.

Call it a "main street," but a strip mall is a strip mall. And meat and potatoes, even when the plate is drizzled with sauce and sprinkled with chopped parsley, is still...meat and potatoes.

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